• Belt: Child and Adult Care Food Program funding now available

    family eating 070820CENTREVILLE - In an effort to ensure disadvantaged families receive meal assistance, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) announced Wednesday that funding is available for organization that support children who are in need from the Child and Adult Care Program

    “Reducing food insecurity among low-income children is a priority and core mission of our state,” Belt said.  “We want to continue to ensure our current reality does not hinder the meal assistance that many families rely on.”

    The program assists child care centers, Head Start programs, before and after school programs, emergency shelters, and daycare home providers with funding to serve meals to children. All participating child care centers must provide meals to enrolled children at no additional cost.

    The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has caused even more families to depend on federally funded nutrition programs. More than 1,000 child care centers across Illinois will be able to provide children with healthy meals.

    Individuals in households who participate in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are automatically eligible to receive free meal benefits. The USDA Household Income Eligibility Guidelines determine eligibility to receive free meal benefits for families that do not receive TANF or SNAP benefits.

    If a household’s income falls within or below the listed guidelines, a member of the household should contact their child care center or day care home provider to learn about benefits of the CACFP. They may be required to complete an application and provide income, TANF or SNAP information.

    Children enrolled in Head Start programs at approved facilities and foster care children who are legal responsibilities of the state or court will also receive free meal benefits. Parents or guardians should contact their child care center or day care home provider to find out if they can participate in CACFP.

    Income Eligibility Guidelines Effective from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021

    Income Eligibility Guidelines

    Effective from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021


    Free Meals                                                                                                 



    Reduced-Price Meals                                                                                                 

    130% Federal Poverty Guideline

    185% Federal Poverty Guideline

    Household Size



    Twice Per Month

    Every Two Weeks


    Household Size



    Twice Per Month

    Every Two Weeks


































































































    For each additional family member, add






    For each additional family member, add






    Child care institutions can learn more and apply for the program here:

    Family day care homes can learn more here:

    Those interested in the adult care portion of the program can visit:

  • Belt backs July 1 minimum wage increase to support essential workers during COVID-19 crisis

    belt minwage 070120EAST ST. LOUIS - In support of the grocery store employees, gas station attendants and other minimum wage workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) applauds the July 1 increase to the state's minimum wage.

    “Our low-wage essential workers deserve to see a pay increase for their labor during the COVID-19 crisis,” Belt said. “And the many Illinoisans who have been laid off during the pandemic can count on a livable wage when they return to work.” 

    Senate Bill 1 increases the state's minimum wage increases to $10 per hour on July 1. The legislation requires the wage to increase by $1 on Jan. 1 each year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. 

    To support the state’s small business community, a tax credit will be available for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to help offset the wage increase.

    In response to business leaders who have used the pandemic and its associated economic downturn to try to repeal or delay the wage increase, Belt says it can’t wait.

    "I promised my constituents a livable minimum wage, and I plan on keeping that promise," Belt said. "It’s been a decade since Illinois workers received a wage increase—we can’t stall any longer."

  • Belt announces $214,000 broadband expansion grant for the Metro-East

    broadband 052820EAST ST. LOUIS – As high-speed internet becomes more and more of a necessity for households and businesses, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) and Governor JB Pritzker announce a broadband expansion grant that will give approximately 177 households in the Metro-East access to high-speed internet. 

    The funds come from Connect Illinois, Gov. Pritzker’s plan to provide basic internet access to every community in Illinois by 2024. 

    “Now more than ever, we can clearly see how much high-speed internet is required. There are students across Illinois who struggled to participate in e-learning because they didn’t have adequate access to high-speed internet,” said Belt. “Going forward, we need to make sure we are ready for any type of catastrophe – as well as everyday life, and that starts by being connected.”

    State-wide, $50 million in total investments will be matched by $65 million in non-state funds to support 28 projects across Illinois. The projects should expand internet access to more than 26,000 homes, businesses, farms, and community institutions.

    “Connect Illinois is about the right of all our communities to access health care, education, and economic opportunity – because in the 21st century, all those rights are tied to digital connectivity,” Pritzker said. “The unacceptable consequences of disparities in broadband access were clear before the COVID-19 pandemic – and over the last few months, we’ve seen first-hand what it means when a small business that had to close its doors has no online shop, what it means when an elderly couple has no safe way to get medical advice at a distance, what it means when a child has no ability to access homework assignments online. This work has never been more urgent – the disadvantages that persist when our communities are left out of opportunity demand ambitious efforts to bring them to a close.”

    The state’s largest-ever broadband expansion initiative, Connect Illinois, includes a $400 million broadband grant program and a $20 million capital program for the Illinois Century Network, a high-speed broadband network serving K-12 and higher education institutions, among others.

    Another round of Connect Illinois grants is expected to be released later this year. More information on these and other grant programs can be found on DCEO’s website.

  • Belt promotes guidelines for students returning back to school

    school distance2 062420EAST ST. LOUIS – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) promoted guidelines for students to return to school this fall, as numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to gradually decrease. 

    “Our students and teachers have done an amazing job adapting to e-learning during this health crisis,” Belt said. “Now that they have opportunity to return this fall, parents and teachers have an important role of carefully transitioning our students back into a productive and safe environment.”

    The Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health outlined guidelines for K-12 schools and higher education institutions to safely resume in-person learning this fall, while ensuring the health and safety of students and staff is prioritized. The groups worked with educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses and other stakeholders to create the 60-page guidance. 

    The guidelines for Phase 4 will, among other things:

    • Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including face coverings;
    • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
    • Require social distancing be observed, as much as possible;
    • Require schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings; and
    • Require an increase in school-wide cleaning and disinfection.

    All public and nonpublic schools in Illinois serving K-12 students must follow these guidelines. 

  • Belt appointed to the state’s reopening commission

    belt 030520SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) has been appointed to the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, which is charged with overseeing the effort to reopen and rebuild Illinois’ economy as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    “Reopening our state safely and efficiently is my biggest concern,” Belt said. “I am honored to be part of this commission and work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we follow the best plan to fully recover from the pandemic and renew economic stability.”

    The Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission will enable cooperation between the legislative and executive branches in dealing with the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. The commission will work closely with the Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on plans to revive the various sectors of the Illinois economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The commission is made up of 14 members drawn from both political parties and both chambers of the General Assembly. Members of the commission will serve without compensation.

    DCEO will provide a written report to the commission and the General Assembly every month regarding the status of current and proposed recovery efforts, with metrics and other information to demonstrate the state’s progress. The first report will be delivered July 1.

    The Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission was created by Senate Bill 2135.

  • Senate President Don Harmon announces appointments to Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission

    harmon 03052020CM0660SPRINGFIELD, IL – Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) announced four appointees to the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, a group created to help guide Illinois through the reopening process following stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of coronavirus.

    Senators Christopher Belt (D-Centreville), Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) and Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) will represent Senate Democrats on the commission. 

  • Belt supports new education package to help teachers and students through the COVID-19 crisis

    belt 050819EAST ST. LOUIS – To help schools overcome obstacles caused by COVID-19, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) supported a new package of legislation containing numerous measures to provide teachers and students with the tools they need to adapt during the current health crisis.

    “Students have been deprived of many milestones, like proms and graduations, and remote learning hasn’t been an easy transition for kids or teachers,” Belt said. “This education package is an effort to provide schools with the resources they need to get through this difficult period.”

    The education package contains a number of measures to help students and teachers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a one-year extension for educator license renewals, so teachers don’t have to go through the renewal process while working remotely. 

    The legislation also allows mandatory tests to be taken remotely to enable students to take college readiness exams without risking their health. 

    Certain provisions relate to higher education during the pandemic. Under the new law, any grade of “pass,” “credit” or “satisfactory” during the public health emergency is transferable and will fulfill prerequisite requirements for more advanced college courses. 

    It also modifies income requirements for the state's AIM HIGH education grant program, saying a student’s income when they enter the program will remain their income for the duration of their inclusion in the program.

    Senate Bill 1569 was signed into law Thursday.  

  • Belt implores African Americans to donate blood to address shortages

    Senator BeltEAST ST. LOUIS – As the country faces a critical shortage of blood donations, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) asks African Americans to donate blood to aid patients with sickle cell disease.

    “Donating blood could save someone’s life, which is why I am using my platform to bring awareness to this donation shortage,” Belt said. “African Americans are primarily affected by sickle cell disease, so it is of utmost importance that African Americans donate blood that can be used by sickle cell patients for transfusions.”

    African American blood donors play an important role in the treatment of sickle cell disease. Patients with the disease depend on transfusions from donors with closely matched blood—beyond just blood type—to reduce the risk of complications.

    Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Red Cross says donations by African Americans have dropped by more than half. As sickle cell patients are at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19 infection, donations are especially important at this time.

    The Red Cross assures donors that each donation center must follow the highest standards of safety and infection control. Additional precautions, including social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff, have been implemented to ensure the health of everyone in attendance.

    Many blood centers throughout the state have extended their operating hours to meet the critical need for donations.

    To make an appointment to donate blood with the Red Cross, residents can visit or call 800-733-2767.

  • Belt: Budget sets aside funds for seniors, unemployment and downstate small businesses

    belt 030520EAST ST. LOUIS – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) released the following statement after Gov. JB Pritzker signed a budget that supports the most vulnerable populations and helps people impacted by COVID-19:

    “We are well aware that Illinois’ financial recovery will not happen overnight, but with the signing of this budget, we made sure the most disadvantaged communities hit by COVID-19 receive the help they deserve. Seniors will receive additional funding for the Senior Meals Program and the Community Care Program, which allows seniors to stay within the confinements of their home instead of moving to assisted living facilities. 

    “Additionally, more than $200 million is set aside to help businesses effected by COVID-19 in downstate communities. Also, people who have been laid off will receive more help from the Department of Employment Security to help address the challenges with the unemployment system. This is a great first step toward our state’s financial recovery.”

  • Senate Black Caucus members stand with communities in calling for swift action

    Sen. Christopher Belt

    SPRINGFIELD—Senators of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus released the following statement after the protests and riots in Chicago brought on by racist acts of violence against countless African Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor: 

    Senator Christopher Belt(D-Centreville), ILBC Senate Co-chair

    “In 1903, the great black scholar, W.E.B. Dubois, stated “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. Here we stand in 2020, fighting for justice and equality because of that very same issue, the color line. That said, please understand this is not just ‘our’ problem, but rather, it is a ‘we’ problem. I am calling on my fellow legislators to stand with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to denounce this system of racial injustice that injures, destroys and kills not only people of color, but the very fabric of the American tapestry,” Belt said.

    Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood)

    “COVID-19 was not done showing us just how deep the inequities in our country are before we had another series of Black murders at the hands of racists in the headlines. It is exhausting to feel like you have been yelling at the top of your lungs for years without being heard, and I am deeply pained for our people forced to live in fear in the very country they helped build,” Lightford said. “I extend a call to action to my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly and legislators across the country to hear the ache in the hearts of those who are fed up. We can only move forward by coming together to ensure every individual’s basic human rights are protected.”

    Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago)

    “What we are witnessing from many of the protestors is a demand for change—an acknowledgment that the status quo is unacceptable and must end. They are crying out, screaming to be heard and wondering aloud how many more will have to die before we finally recognize the sanctity of black lives,” Sims said. “As we fight tirelessly for justice, I ask that we don’t use lawlessness as a means to do it. I know there is an overwhelming need to be heard and understood. If no one else hears you, I do. I will continue to work relentlessly with leaders on all levels to fix our utterly broken system and hold bad actors accountable. We can, and we will, achieve change together.”

    Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago)

    "The story of this crisis isn’t the looting, it is the why, the what, and the how,” Peters said. “Why are people so mad? Why are people so hurt? What do people need? How are we going to help?"

    Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago)

    “Just in the last month, we’ve mourned the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and now George Floyd,” Van Pelt said. “How many more names must be said? Countless black lives were lost at the hands of police, failed under a system that was never meant to protect them, never meant to protect people that look like me. We can’t breathe, and haven’t been able to since we were abducted from the shores of our native land."

    Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)

    "What we are witnessing today is the strange fruit sown by institutional racism and neglect. It has given us a harvest of poverty, mass incarceration, food and health deserts as well as educational inequity.  We are not only fighting a virus, but violence and vandalism. Yet, we should not conflate the peaceful protests and righteous indignation with the criminality of a few bad apples," Collins said.

    "The days ahead of us must be days of rebuilding and healing, but they must also be days of reform and accountability that save lives. We must come together with one voice to say 'Black Lives Matter.' If we do not have reform and accountability, then there can truly be no healing."

    Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago)

     “The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are painful illustrations of the deep-rooted systems of oppression, and systems of protection for bad actors, that continue to burden African-American families. These murders sow further hopelessness, anger, and agony, which has been expressed over the past few days through widespread protests. While some have seen this as an excuse to commit shameful acts of destruction, it was heartening to see countless Chicagoans take to the streets to peacefully demand justice and make our voices heard in a productive way,” Hunter said.

    “Our path forward must not end with protests. Now is the time to harness our collective anger to galvanize a movement toward ending police violence and enacting transformational reforms centered around police accountability, transparency, and oversight.”

    Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago)

    "It is sickening that we have to continuously address the racial biases the criminal justice system has against Black Americans. It's evident how much racial disparity is prevalent throughout the justice system and how much officers believe we are so much of a threat to the country that we helped build.

    "The whole situation is just tiring, and a change is more than overdue. Even if you're not a part of the problem, you must be well aware of the harassment that blacks receive daily and how the media would rather paint a bad picture of us than be a part of the solution. 

    "We cannot solve this problem on our own. We profess no easy answers. It's obvious that real change will only happen when all of America believes Black Lives Matter."

    Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Dolton)

    “The young people of America have mobilized in unified outrage and it is time we acknowledged their cries. It is time we acknowledged the humanity and grievances of African-Americans throughout this country."

  • Belt supports new education package

    home school 052920EAST ST. LOUIS - In order to continue to make students and teachers educational experience from home easier, State Senator Christopher Belt, supported an education package to help with the obstacles many are facing during the public health crisis.

    “Many students who have been forced to give up their regular school session have experienced a greater disadvantage when it comes to remote learning due to a lack of resources. Some do not have access to technology to get on daily zooms, which leads to students having difficult time staying connected. “Belt said. “It’s important educators and students are equipped with the right tools to ensure this current reality runs smoothly.”

    The education package does a number of things to help students and teachers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes extending educator license renewals for one year, so teachers don’t have to go through the renewal process while working remotely. It also allows for mandatory tests to be taken remotely, so students don’t have to risk getting sick in order to take an exam they need to apply for college.

    Additionally, relating to higher education, any grade of “pass,” “credit,” or “satisfactory” during the public health emergency is transferable and will fulfill prerequisite requirements for more advanced courses.

    Senate Bill 1569 also modifies income requirements for the state's AIM HIGH education grant program, states a student’s income when they enter the program will remain their income for the duration of their inclusion in the program.

    Senate Bill 1569 passed the Senate and must receive final approval from the governor.

  • Belt supports new investment to help small businesses

    smallbizopen2 052820EAST ST. LOUIS — As many small businesses across the state worry about the financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, State Senator Christopher Belt announced new funding for small business development centers to help businesses get through this difficult time. 

    “Small businesses are vital parts of local economies. They help create webs of financial gain and job opportunities, which is beneficial to our communities,” Belt (D-Centreville) said. “Many businesses will not be able to recover if they don’t receive additional assistance.”

    A $7.3 million investment announced by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Wednesday will flow from the U.S. Small Business Administration to the Illinois Small Business Developmental Center program. The statewide program focuses on supporting Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs in starting, growing and maintaining their businesses. 

    The money will go toward additional resources for education, training and professional business advising to small businesses that have experienced supply chain disruptions, staffing challenges, a decrease in gross receipts or customers, or a closure as a result of COVID-19.

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has played an important role in connecting businesses with support resources and assistance programs designed to help keep them from shutting their doors permanently. 

  • Belt pleased with dentists being able to resume routine care

    belt 030520EAST ST. LOUIS – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) is pleased to learn the Illinois Department of Public Health has updated its guidance on allowing dental providers to resume routine oral and dental care beginning this week.

    “Allowing dentists to carry on with routine oral and dental care shows that we are progressing,” Belt said. “Of course, dentist offices will still have to follow IDPH’s guidelines, but will be able to provide necessary oral hygiene care while minimizing risk to patients and healthcare personnel.”

    IDPH says to yield good procedural outcomes, oral health providers should consider their patient's health care needs, assess the risks and benefits of any procedures, and appropriately screen patients for COVID-19. Patients will need to be symptom free and have their temperature taken. Dentists will need to address their use of masks, face guards, and suction devices.

    Dentists gave up their PPE in the early days of the pandemic for hospitals, first responders and nursing homes. Now they have difficulty getting what they need to resume dental care. 

    “Patients have been waiting to get back to their dentists and, even though now we have the green light from the IDPH, we are in need of PPE to meet their guidelines,” said Dave Marsh, Director of Governmental Affairs with the Illinois State Dental Society. “Of course, we recognize the highest priorities for PPE in health care settings, but we will be seeking a higher priority for masks and face shields for our profession.”

    More details from IDPH are here.

  • Belt announces new East St. Louis COVID-19 testing site to open Wednesday

    covid drive thru 050520EAST ST. LOUIS - To increase the testing capacity for downstate residents, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) announced a new COVID-19 testing facility will open in East St. Louis at Jackie Joyner Kersee Center on Wednesday, May 6 with drive-thru and walk-up services.

    “It’s vital that every community has direct access to a testing facility to help treat, isolate or hospitalize people who are infected,” said Belt. “I am happy that East St. Louis residents and the rest of the Metro East are receiving easier access to testing to ensure a strong recovery of the downstate communities.” 


  • Belt pushes for the reopening of local state recreation area

    belt 010620EAST ST. LOUIS –  Following the announcement of many state parks reopening, and Frank Holten State Recreation Area not being on that list, State Senator Christopher Belt (D- Centreville) joined fellow downstate Democrats in sending a letter to the governor urging him to work with the legislature to reopen several recreational areas that were not reopened. 

    “With many residents starting to feel lonely and stressed during the stay at home order, reopening a local park could give them something to do outside that would ease those feelings,” Belt said. “I understand sanitary procedures need to be in place before reopening the park, but with proper social distancing and use of face masks, Frank Holten State Recreation Area should be reopened.” 

    If Frank Holten State Recreation Area were to reopen, it could provide many residents with an avenue to occasionally escape the confines of their homes, Belt urged. 

  • Belt encourages independent contractors to apply for new unemployment program

    gigworker 022820EAST ST. LOUIS – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) is reminding residents that independent contractors and employees in the “gig economy” can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

    “Entrepreneurs can receive much needed assistance during this financially difficult time,” Belt said. “The assistance will help people affected reduce some of their financial hardship and provide them with unemployment benefits.” 

  • Downstate Senate Democrats push to double funding for local health departments

    vials 022820

  • Belt announces additional support to childcare providers and essential workers

    Sen. Christopher Belt

    SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) announces the expansion of support to childcare workers and other essential workers during this COVID-19 crisis.

    “During this crisis essential workers still need someone to watch over their children, which is why this additional support to childcare centers is critical,” Belt said. “This ensures that their kids are still safe while increasing the affordability at these centers in the time being.”

  • Belt reaches out to hard-to-count residents at informational 2020 Census event

    belt 032019SPRINGFIELD – To ensure a complete count of Illinois residents in the upcoming census, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) hosted an informational event regarding the 2020 Census at East St. Louis Community College Center on Wednesday.

    "One way to reach hard-to-count areas is to inform residents about the importance of being counted," Belt said. "Most people are not aware that if they are not counted, millions of dollars in funding for our schools and hospitals is at risk."

    Belt partnered with State Representative Latoya Greenwood and the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) to host the event.

    DHS discussed how the census will impact the community and how residents can make sure family and friends are counted. They also explained the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA).

    GATA makes it easier for prospective grant applicants to get information on the state’s selection of grant recipients and use of grant funds.

    "I was glad to give residents the opportunity to learn more about how the state awards grants at this event,” Belt said. “Small businesses were able to get insight into how to apply for additional support to help their business succeed."

  • Belt endorses diverse interview panels to ensure equal employment opportunity

    belt 030520SPRINGFIELD – To increase employment opportunities for women, minorities and people with disabilities, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) is sponsoring a measure to change the job interview process at state agencies.

    “Agencies must keep diversity in mind when they interview job candidates,” Belt said. “People tend to hire candidates that look like them. That means one-dimensional interview panels are far less likely to create a diverse workplace.”

    Senate Bill 3214 would create the Equal Opportunity Employment Interview Initiative and require state agencies to implement hiring goals for certain target groups, including women, minorities and people with disabilities.